Category Archives: Harlingen

TSTC hosts an out-of-this-world experience for the community

(HARLINGEN) – Katlyn Nuncio mixed baking soda, salt and water to watch her rocket launch during “Journey to Mars,” a first-of-its-kind event hosted by the Texas State Technical College Challenger Learning Center.

“It was so cool watching how the mixture reacted and how high my rocket went,” said the 9-year-old fourth grader from Ed Downs Elementary School in San Benito. “The event was great. I love science and I hope to become an engineer when I grow up.”

The half-day event, which was free and open to the public, was attended by more than 200 people.

TSTC Journey to Mars

It was organized in partnership with NASA to celebrate the center’s 5th and NASA’s 6th anniversaries.

“We’re are so excited with the response we received from the school districts and community,” said Yvette Mendoza, TSTC College Readiness coordinator. “The number of families who attended this event surpassed all of our expectations. This event was a definite success.”

The event included hands-on activities for all ages from space crafting and gravity affects to Mars rover building and Mars habitat creating.

Every booth was divided into phases, and resembled a space mission set up. Planetarium shows were also available throughout the morning.

For 11-year-old Aiden Barrera from San Benito, “Journey to Mars” was a great way to celebrate his birthday.

“I’m into science and engineering, but my favorite subject is math so this event was so much fun for me,” said Barrera. “It was a great way to spend my birthday weekend.”

The fifth grader said he had the most fun creating a home for a Mars extraterrestrial creature using paper plates, paper cups, paint and glue.

TSTC Journey to Mars“This was truly a team effort. We really wanted this event to introduce children of all ages, from toddler to high school, to the science, technology, engineering and mathematic (STEM) fields,” said Mendoza. “It’s important to plant the seed at a young age, especially because STEM is a huge priority for our school districts and our state.”

“Journey to Mars” was a result of a signed NASA Cooperative Agreement that was introduced to the TSTC Challenger Learning Center by the National Challenger Center.

Through this agreement, TSTC’s center will receive upgraded hardware and software to add new missions to its lineup.

“Our goal with this is to be able to offer new, educational and exciting opportunities for the students who visit us,” said Mendoza. “All that matters is that they are learning while having fun.”

Under this cooperative, Mendoza said the TSTC Challenger Learning Center introduced its new mission “Expedition to Mars” this year and will introduce “Lunar Quest” in 2019 and “Operation Comet in 2020.”

Mendoza also said the community can expect to see more free, community events that provide educational opportunities in the near future.

For more information on TSTC’s Challenger Learning Center or to book a mission, call 956-364-4517.

TSTC online classes help local man pursue a career change

(HARLINGEN) – At a crossroads in his life, Robert Ahrens decided to enroll at Texas State Technical College, opting for an online program so he could continue supporting his family.

“With a family it’s not all about me,” said the 37-year-old. “I still need to make a decent paycheck, so online classes have been the most convenient for me.”

The La Feria native is enrolled in Business Management Technology, one of four programs with degrees that are offered entirely online.

The other TSTC programs with online degree tracks are Digital Media Design, Architectural Design & Engineering Graphics and Health Information Technology. These are among the many other hybrid programs available, which offer lectures and labs both on campus and online.

“With these programs there really is no excuse for not going to school anymore,” said Ahrens. “What matters is the discipline and hard work you’re willing to put in. It’s so flexible anyone can do it.”Robert Ahrens TSTC online student

A retired police officer of nearly a decade, and now a full-time truck driver with Spirit Truck Lines in Pharr, Ahrens said he has exceeded his own expectations.

Ahrens, who expects to earn his associate degree in Summer 2020, boasts a 3.9 grade-point average, is on the dean’s list and was inducted into Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society in 2016 for his high marks.

“I’m not going to lie, it’s been a challenge,” said Ahrens. “I’m traveling out in the middle of nowhere and finding internet isn’t always easy, but I manage. It’s possible.”

Ahrens is also a recipient of the Lozano Long Promise Opportunity Scholarship, Shell National Merit Scholarship and Texas Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (T-STEM) grant.

“Just because I’m in school doesn’t mean the bills stop and I found myself in a bind,” he said. “But TSTC has helped me fund my education. It has been a tremendous help and motivation to keep going.”

The full-time worker and full-time student said he’s only home 34 hours a week, the rest of his time is spent transporting goods across the country, finding hotspots or truck stops with internet. He also said even his laptop has seen better days, but he’s not letting anything stop him.

“All the technology of today makes it easy to navigate TSTC’s online programs, communicating with instructors and keeping in contact with my family,” he said. “I know someday all this  sacrifice will be worth it.”

TSTC Campus Lead for Business Management Technology Edna Claus said Ahrens has done exceptionally well despite the fact he is on the road most of the time and cannot depend on constant or reliable access to his courses.

“Robert has done well. His persistence is one that can be modeled by all of our students,” she said.

Ahrens is registered and ready to begin his Spring 2019 semester.

“TSTC has made me a well-rounded student and I know whether I stay at Spirit or end up somewhere else I will find success,” he said.

For more information about online programs at TSTC, visit


Student Success Profile – Jennifer Atkinson

(HARLINGEN) – Jennifer Atkinson is an Agricultural Technology major at Texas State Technical College and boasts a perfect 4.0 grade-point average.Jennifer Atkinson

The Rio Hondo native expects to earn her associate degree in Spring 2019, and when the 23-year-old is not in the classroom or out in the field she is busying doing community service with the TSTC Agriculture Club.

What are your plans after you graduate?

After I graduate I plan on transferring to Texas A&M Kingsville to pursue a bachelor’s degree in Agricultural Science with a teaching certificate.

What’s your dream job?

My dream job is to have a successful career in agriculture with U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

What has been your greatest accomplishment while at TSTC?

My greatest accomplishment so far has been making it on the Chancellor’s List and maintaining my honor roll worthy grades. I never used to be an “A” student so this has helped motivate to continue and appreciate school even more.

What greatest lesson have you learned about yourself or life?

The greatest lesson I have learned in life is that everything happens for a reason and in God’s perfect timing.

Who at TSTC has had the greatest influence on your success?

All of my instructors and my classmates have had a great influence on my success. First, my instructors have been a blessing. They genuinely care about us, are easy to talk to and take every step necessary to ensure we succeed. Last but not least, my classmates. They have become lifelong friends and an extension of my family.

What is your advice for future TSTC students?

My advice for future TSTC students is to work hard because nothing in life is handed to us on a silver platter.


TSTC implements mixed reality into curriculum, a first for the college

(HARLINGEN)  – Bringing emerging technology into the hands of its students, Texas State Technical College will be implementing HoloLens Mixed Reality into its curriculum as early as next year.

The first programs to introduce the Microsoft application, in partnership with Pearson Education, are Architectural Design and Engineering Graphics, Vocational and Registered Nursing and Chemical Technology.

Students strap on a Microsoft HoloLens, similar to virtual reality gaming headsets, to see 3D computer graphics shown on top of the real-world classroom environment.

“There is nothing as powerful as using HoloLens for educating our students,” said TSTC Senior Vice President of Student Learning Hector Yanez. “This is a unique tool for explaining lessons in-depth, beyond a traditional lecture. Students can feel the knowledge.”

With a number of virtual reality and augmented reality applications being utilized in higher education, mixed reality brings a different approach to the already popular technology.

Unlike its counterparts that set a user in a virtual, or digital landscape, mixed reality blends the person’s real-world and digital world, and introduces a hologram that the user can interact with.

It is a three-dimensional immersive learning experience that can be used anywhere or anytime.TSTC Nursing uses mixed reality

“Mixed reality applications have been around for only a few years,” said TSTC Executive Director of Instructional Support Orlando Penuelas. “So there was a lot of research that went into this decision making; this is a great investment for our students and institution.”

A pair of HoloLens applications: HoloPatient and HoloChemistry, were among the first to be demonstrated to TSTC students recently.

TSTC Vocational Nursing students Ana Decuesta and Celina Romo were first to use HoloPatient to interact with holographic medical scenarios.

“I’ve only seen this type of technology on TV. So being able to actually touch it and use it is exciting,” said Romo, the 39-year-old Raymondville native. “At first I was intimated; it’s cutting edge technology, but it turned out to be very user friendly and I can’t wait until it’s fully implemented into our program.”

Decuesta shared the same sentiment. She said she is happy that this type of technology is now available to her and her peers.

“This type of technology is usually found in big universities, so TSTC giving us this opportunity is invaluable to our training,” said 19-year-old Decuesta. “This will allow us to build on our confidence, which is key in our field, before beginning our clinical rotations and beginning our careers.”

Yanez said the goal of the applications is to bridge a gap between understanding and visualization, which will lead to student retention and placing more Texans into good paying jobs.

“HoloLens gives TSTC and our students a competitive edge,” said Yanez. “We are just seeing the start of the endless possibilities that these tools can offer our students.”

Penuelas agrees that with industry increasingly using mixed reality for their daily processes, training students in the software and how to use HoloLens correctly will make them more marketable when looking to start their careers.

Large organizations such as Chevron and NASA are using HoloLens to provide visual aids and remote assistance for their employees.

“HoloLens is the golden standard for mixed reality and our students have it at their fingertips,” said Penuelas. “This will definitely give them a leg up.”

TSTC in Harlingen will kick off the pilot program in the coming year and will eventually be implemented at the college’s 10 other campuses across the state.

“Our goal is to implement HoloLens statewide once we completely understand how to implement the system and its applications,” said Yanez. “Every TSTC campus will have access to this advanced technology sooner rather than later.”

Registration for Spring 2019 is underway. The last day to register is Jan. 2.

For more information on the programs offered, to apply or register, visit

Student Success Profile – Ricardo Vasquez

(HARLINGEN) – Ricardo VasquezRicardo Vasquez is pursuing an associate degree in Agricultural Technology at Texas State Technical College. The Sebastian native holds a 3.6 grade-point average and expects to graduate in Summer 2019.

The 22-year-old said that by pursuing a career in agriculture he is following in his father’s footsteps and said his favorite part of the field has always been working with cattle.

What are your plans after graduation?

When I graduate I will transfer to Texas A&M Kingsville to pursue a bachelor’s degree in General Agriculture.

What’s your dream job?

My dream job is to work with either the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Texas Department of Agriculture or as a game warden.

What has been your greatest accomplishment while at TSTC?

My greatest accomplishment so far has been maintaining high grades and my GPA, but I’m looking forward to graduating, and that by far will be my greatest accomplishment.

What greatest lesson have you learned about yourself or life?

The greatest lesson I have learned is that I must chase my dreams because I am in charge of my future.

Who at TSTC has had the greatest influence on your success?

All of my Agricultural Technology instructors have had a great influence on my success. They have all guided me and supported me on this journey. Without them I wouldn’t be where I am today.

What is your advice for future TSTC students?

My advice for future TSTC students is this: Do not let anyone tell you that you can’t do something. There is always a way to make your dreams come true.


TSTC hosts first chemistry community event

(HARLINGEN) – Eight-year-old Leonard Fuller experimented with sublimation bubbles – converted from a solid to a gas – during Texas State Technical College’s first “Chemistry is Out of This World” event recently held at the Wellness and Sports Center.

“Getting to create my own bubbles using dry ice and watching them grow on their own has been my favorite,” said Fuller. “But creating my chemical base to launch my own rocket was fun too. It’s hard to choose.”

The homeschooled student said he enjoys studying science and chemistry. He hopes to become a scientist when he grows up.

The event hosted by TSTC’s Challenger Learning Center and Chemical Technology was a half-day event filled with hands-on activities for families with a goal of exposing  young children to Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) programs and careers.

TSTC Chemistry Event

Activities such as building a battery, molecule creation, bubble sublimation, HoloChemistry mixed reality, rocket reactions and planetarium shows were only a few that the more than 100 attendees got to enjoy.

“With STEM education being a priority in all schools and grade levels, we want to plant the seed early and expose students to these amazing fields and the opportunities they can provide,” said Yvette Mendoza, TSTC college readiness coordinator. “And there’s no better way to do that than to make learning fun.”

For Lola Mejia from Girl Scout troop 1065, the rocket reactions activity launched her interest in chemistry.

“My rocket went over the bleachers, it was the best,” said Mejia. “I love baking, but now I love chemistry and science too. I have a lot to think about.”

The 11-year-old now has two possible career choices.

“Chemistry is Out of This World” was made possible by a grant the TSTC Challenger Learning Center received from the National Informal STEM Education Network, a community comprised of informal educators and scientists dedicated to supporting learning about STEM across the United States, provided all of the supplies necessary for the hands-on activities.

“This is the first time we receive this grant and we are so appreciative and grateful to be able to give our community this type of opportunity,” said Mendoza. “And the interest we have seen

from school districts, teachers and the community is immeasurable.”

Mendoza said this event and the services the Challenger Learning Center offers throughout the year are aligned with the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills, state curriculum standards set forth for public schools K-12.

TSTC Chemistry Event

Neri Balli, state director for pre-college programs, said the event was a success.

“We had a great turn out and it was so much fun seeing how engaged and interested these children were,” said Balli. “Our center and these programs supplement what they are learning in the classroom. This is definitely the first of many community engagement events we hope to host in the future.”

The next community engagement event “Journey to Mars,” will be held December 1 at the TSTC Cultural Arts Center, in partnership with a National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) cooperative.

This event will celebrate NASA’s 60th anniversary and the TSTC’s Challenger Learning Center’s fifth anniversary.

The event is free and open to the public and will consist of toddler and school-aged children activities such as rover building, computer coding, Mars habitat drawings with three-dimensional pens and rocket assembly.

For more information on the Challenger Learning Center and to register for Journey to Mars call 956-364-4125 or visit

TSTC hosts annual food drive: Food should not be an obstacle

(HARLINGEN) – Lemarques Hicks is a Vocational Nursing student at Texas State Technical College and without Charlie’s Pantry available for TSTC housing students, Hicks could have gone hungry. .

This is why the TSTC Staff Senate is hosting its annual Food Drive for Charlie’s Pantry and the Student Life Pantry, centralized in the TSTC Student Center for all students to use.

“There are times that I have had no funds for food,” said Hicks. “Without the help from the pantry I would have had nothing to eat. I’m grateful that TSTC offers this type of service and support.”

The 22-year-old Houston native relocated to the Rio Grande Valley to attend TSTC. With only a grandmother close by, Hicks has no other family support in the area.

Hick’s grandmother will help her grandson as often as she is able to, but unfortunately she struggles financially as well.

TSTC Charlie's Pantry

“The help I have received from the college has allowed me to focus on school and has relieved some burden,” said Hicks. “They (employees) have given me the chance to stay in school and make my dream of becoming a nurse come true so that I may be able to make a better life for myself.”

Hicks has also received assistance from the TSTC Foundation’s Snyder Helping Hands fund, an emergency aid fund available to students statewide who face unexpected hardships or are at risk of dropping out of school.

Hicks said after he graduates in Spring 2019, he hopes to begin his career at a Houston hospital and take care of his aging father.

Unfortunately, Hicks is part of an alarming 42 percent of college students who describe themselves as food insecure. This number comes from a recent study “Still Hungry and Homeless in College,” by researchers at Temple University and Wisconsin HOPE Lab.

According to the same study, one-third of these students say they have skipped meals or eaten small portions to cut costs.

TSTC Project Manager for Financial Services and Staff Senate president Sharon Foster said an increase of food-insecure students makes this a pressing issue for faculty and staff.

“We’re here to assist our students and help them stay in school,” said Foster. “We need to relieve the burden of hunger so that they can focus on achieving academically and earn a degree. Food should not be an obstacle.”

Since mid-August, the Student Life Pantry has been visited 574 times with an average of 48 visits per week. Charlie’s Pantry has an average of 15 visits per week.

“Our pantries need to be replenished. They’re running low on food,” said Foster. “Representative from both pantries have already called requesting food, and this is where our annual drive comes in.”

Foster said faculty, staff and students are always responsive to helping those in need. Non-perishable foods and monetary donations for frozen meals are already pouring in.

It takes at least $150 a month to keep the pantries stocked at minimum to ensure students like Hicks have food readily available when they need it.

“Students we’ve spoken to are always so grateful for the assistance,” said Foster. “Our goal it so make their college experience a positive one. We’re here for our students.”

There are drop-off locations set up throughout campus, and TSTC Staff Senate is also hosting food drive events to collect donations. The next events are on December 4 at the TSTC Learning Resource Center and December 11 at the Student Service Center.

As for Hicks, he is now a student worker at TSTC Housing serving as a community assistant and receiving a paycheck to help with food and other expenses.

“The help I continue getting is endless. This job is helping me more than many would think,” he said. “The pantry is now a last resort for me because I know there are many others who rely on it as well.”

For more information on how to donate to TSTC’s food pantries call 956-364-4023.

Student Success Profile – Cecilia Cuellar

(HARLINGEN) – Cecilia CuellarCecilia Cuellar is studying Agricultural Technology at Texas State Technical College. The 21-year-old expects to earn her associate degree in Spring 2019, holds a perfect 4.0 grade-point average and is an active member of the Agriculture Club.

The Santa Monica, Texas native said her passion for agriculture came from watching her grandfather and father work with cattle. Growing up around the industry, she said she wants to follow in their footsteps.

What are your plans after graduation?

After I graduate from TSTC I plan on transferring to Texas A&M Kingsville to pursue a bachelor’s degree in Agricultural Science.

What’s your dream job?

My dream job is to work a federal job perhaps with the U.S. Department of Agriculture under the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service conducting fever tick research.

What has been your greatest accomplishment while at TSTC?

My greatest accomplishment so far at TSTC has been earning a spot on the Chancellor’s Honor Roll list.

What greatest lesson have you learned about yourself or life?

The greatest lesson I have learned is to not doubt my abilities. If you set your mind to something and work hard, then you can accomplish any goal you set for yourself.

Who at TSTC has had a great influence on your success?

It’s difficult to name just one person, so I’m going to have to say that all of my instructors have influenced my success. They ensure that we understand all of our lectures and labs and go the extra mile to help us. They share their experiences and always show genuine care about our success.

What is your advice for future TSTC students?

My advice for future TSTC students is to come into college with an open mind. There are so many career choices, but it’s important that they choose what is best for them and what they’re passionate about.

TSTC auto collision program awarded laptops from I-CAR

(HARLINGEN) – Auto Collision and Management Technology at Texas State Technical College in Harlingen was recently award a Progressive Insurance laptop grant by the Inter-Industry Conference on Auto Collision Repair (I-CAR) Collision Repair Education Foundation during the 2018 SEMA Show in Las Vegas.Auto Collision & Management Technology

The SEMA Show is the premier automotive specialty products trade event in the world. It draws industry’s brightest minds and hottest products to one location and provides educational seminars, product demonstrations, special events and networking opportunities.

With this grant, TSTC Auto Collision and Management Technology will receive 10 laptops by the end of the year to use for training purposes.

“Every student in our program will benefit from these laptops,” said TSTC Auto Collision Technology lead instructor Jose Vasquez. “This is a huge upgrade and a big deal for our program. We are very grateful to have received this award.”

Vasquez said this award is part of group effort within departments at TSTC.

“Everyone from administration, statewide leads to the marketing department helped make this award possible,” said Vasquez. “And we are so thankful that everyone was able to do his/her part to help prove our need.”


The laptops will be implemented for training in the program’s Estimating/Shop Management course.

Vasquez said these laptops, which will be equipped with estimating and management programs used in industry, will allow his students to quickly research auto body parts and write up repair estimates for class assignments and live projects, where students research damage and parts and estimate repairs for vehicles brought in by folks from the surrounding communities.

Auto Collision & Management Technology

“Our priority is to prepare our students for the industry and these laptops will allow them to experience firsthand what they will see when they begin working. This is industry-recommended training,” said Vasquez. “This will improve students’ training and will make their research and estimates instant, instead of the manual way we’re doing things now.”

TSTC Auto Collision and Management Technology and I-CAR, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to providing the information, knowledge and skills required to perform complete, safe and quality repairs, have a long-running partnership.

I-CAR has provided students from TSTC’s auto collision program with scholarships, tool grants, U.S. Armed Forces veteran grants and also grants for TSTC shop upgrades.

“We are honored to provide TSTC in Harlingen with the Progressive Laptop Grant and other assistance throughout the year. This is a well-deserved award,” said Melissa Marscin, director of operations and administration for the Collision Repair Education Foundation. “TSTC’s collision program has proven to be great and we know these laptops will help them become an even better program. We hope that this donation will help them improve their access to I-CAR training, estimating and vehicle service information.”

Vasquez said he is thankful for everything I-CAR has done for the program and his students.

“Year in and year out, as a member of their foundation, I-CAR has helped us improve our training and kickstart careers,” said Vasquez.

Auto Collision and Management Technology is offered at TSTC’s Harlingen and Waco campuses and offers certificate and associate degree tracks.

For more information on TSTC Auto Collision Technology, visit

Student Success Profile – George Ganze

(HARLINGEN) – George GanzeGeorge Ganze is an Agricultural Technology student at Texas State Technical College. The 55- year-old expects to graduate with his associate degree Spring 2019.

The Rosebud, Texas native currently holds a perfect 4.0 grade-point average and volunteers with the TSTC Veteran Students Alliance Club.

Ganze served four years in the Marines and was deployed to serve in Desert Shield and Desert Storm and is also a retired San Diego County, California deputy sheriff.

What are your plans after graduation?

After I graduate I plan on returning to Waco, where I have some land, and start a farming/cattle business. This is a new career for me and it will supplement my retirement and carry me through the rest of my life.

What’s your dream job?

My dream is to own a business. I was born and raised in Texas where farming and ranching is a big part of life and it’s time to make something of the land that I own.

What has been your greatest accomplishment while at TSTC?

My greatest accomplishment while at TSTC is being placed on the Chancellor’s Honor Roll and being recognized for maintaining high grades. The last time I was in a classroom was in 1981, so this is a huge accomplishment for me.

What greatest lesson have you learned about yourself or life?

At my age I’ve learned many lessons, but the ones that have stuck with me are: you never quit learning or experiencing new things, be sure to take life one day at a time, meet new people, always laugh and be happy.

Who at TSTC has had an influence on your success?

The person who has had the greatest influence on my success is my Agricultural Technology instructor Sammy Gavito. When I came down from Waco he was the first person I met here at TSTC. He’s a great man and has been my guidance and support throughout the program.

What is your advice for future TSTC students?

My advice to future TSTC students is to take advantage of everything TSTC has to offer. This has been a great program and college for me and I highly recommend it.